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What Bird Woke Me?

What could be more pleasant than waking to the sound of bird song?

Sleeping in, for one thing.

One weekend morning, my eight-year-old woke me up with, "Dad, a bird woke me up."

"Welcome to my world," I said.

Then I heard it: two clear notes; the second one lower.

I once witnessed an experienced birder in a forest identify a dozen birds in a few minutes, just from their songs.

But I am not that birder. If you know almost nothing about birds, how do you figure out the song of an unseen bird?

My wife has an app on her phone that can identify music that is playing, which is quite astounding but no use for birds.

Turns out there is an app for that.

But I don't have a smart phone and I wasn't sure when we would next hear the song for it to be recorded.

About a hundred years ago, a musical naturalist named F. Schulyer Mathews described bird song in musical notation and new version has come out called The Music of Wild Birds.

My daughter figured out the notes on her guitar. But I couldn't figure out how to make use of that information.

Birders seem to use mneumonics to remember bird songs, but if you don't actually know what they sound like, they often don't help much.

And many sites include the bird songs of birds, in case you want to learn them all. Which I didn't.

So we were stuck. Until one afternoon our backyard, we saw a bird on a wire, singing the song.

My daughter drew a sketch of it (now she claims she could have done a better one.)


We flipped through a bird book and decided it was probably a Black-capped Chickadee.

I thought they only said their name, "chickadee-dee-dee."

But it turns out, they have a more extensive repertoire.

The song I heard is usually described as "fee-bee," though I never would have guessed that.

They use the song to establish territories and they can distinguish fine details in each other's songs.

So it seems, these bird songs can have much more to them than meets the ear.

Any birders have some tips on identifying bird song?